“To every thing there is a season . . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak . . . a time of war and a time of peace.” – Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3
Three of the most important things I’ve learned in my life are as follows:
– My opinion is almost universally not needed or wanted
– Change does not come from arguing with people.
– If I want change, I must first change myself. Nothing else is in my control.
I do genuinely prefer to abide by this knowledge. It makes for a better life and more productive and amiable disagreement. It’s consistent with my own inner freedom – so long as nothing stands in the way of my ability to create my own experience in this world, it would be a shame for me to condescend to fighting for the agreement of others.
Right now, though, I want to fight something or someone. Maybe this hotheadedness is just the result of the season or the fact that I occasionally act like the young person I am.
It’s easy, calming, and wise to take a laissez faire, noninterventionist approach to the often poorly-informed or rudely executed ideological clashes which happen all around you. After a good long period of living this way, however, you start to wonder if you’ve lost the edge that would make you capable of a challenge again.
And challenges are necessary.
Though I feel inner freedom now, I also have a deeper knowledge of injustice and unfreedom than before. I see just how much of my life has been consumed meaninglessly. I see how much of it was spent trying to fit into molds, conform to self-limiting beliefs, or fearfully obey commands from people I wouldn’t bat an eye at now. I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the authorities and threats we tremble under are hollow.
Though I would love to bring these crumbling down, I should provide a disclaimer: I’m not trying to change minds by argumentation or experience here. I’m trying to change myself by the experience of arguing strongly once more for something I believe in deeply.
It’s been about a year since my the last time I let that righteous anger near a keyboard. It’s time I came around again to see how many walls remain for me to slam myself into. I’m quite ready to dust off my philosophical prizefighting gloves.
It may seem silly for me to march off to the internet flame wars (though I assure you that I am not). Still, I would argue that these moments serve an invaluable function. It’s the minor adrenaline rushes and social discomfort of heated arguments that serve as the training grounds for the more important confrontations and pivotal disagreements of our lives. Perhaps we also see experience the more sublime parts of those life-defining moments when we have enough small courage to agitate our social networks with a controversial thought or two.
My hope is that I gain from this glimpse a renewed passion to bring about real change – that is, to criticize by creating value and alternatives. I think anger can be a perfectly legitimate fuel for the separate process of peacefully, individually making a better world.
It’s certainly excellent for blog posts.